RALEIGH — “Any time you start changing your mindset, usually things don’t work out. And so you just stick to what works.”
That’s what Hurricanes goaltender James Reimer said about his way of thinking when the team in front of him isn’t providing much goal support.
But it’s probably an overall mentality his teammates should apply if they’re not going to slide out of an Eastern Conference playoff position.
Carolina again struggled to put the puck in the net, and Sam Steel’s breakaway goal in overtime gave the Anaheim Ducks the extra point in a 2-1 win over the Hurricanes in front of 16,913 Friday at PNC Arena.
Carolina was poised for an odd-man rush in overtime, but the puck rolled off Andrei Svechnikov’s stick, and Jakob Silfverberg sprung Steel for the breakaway. His shot beat Reimer on the stick side to end it at 1:36 of the extra session.
“It just rolls on him,” coach Rod Brind’Amour said of Svechnikov’s turnover. “We’re definitely trying to go that way. We had the odd-man rush. All of a sudden, turns over and it’s a breakaway for the other guy.”
A night after Brind’Amour said his team played its style perfectly despite a disappointing 3-2 loss in Columbus, the Hurricanes reverted to recent bad habits that led to the visiting Ducks outshooting them 37-27 with far more Grade-A chances than the home team.
“It’s just the little details that have been hurting us, especially lately,” Carolina captain Jordan Staal said. “It’s a simple game that we’ve seen work, and we’re just not buying into it right now.”
It also didn’t help that the team was playing its first game without defenseman Dougie Hamilton, who had surgery earlier in the day for a broken fibula suffered in the loss to Blue Jackets on Thursday. He will be out a minimum of six weeks, but could miss the rest of the regular season based the recovery time of other players with similar injuries. The team has listed the All-Star defenseman as “out indefinitely.”
Even without Hamilton, it looked like Carolina might get rewarded for getting back to the style it played in Columbus when, after weeks of slow starts and early goals allowed, the Hurricanes came out fast and scored first.
Carolina defenseman Joel Edmundson, slotted with Jaccob Slavin on the top pairing in place of the injured Hamilton, took a point shot that was screened by both Warren Foegele and Sebastian Aho, with Aho getting a piece to redirect the shot past Ducks goalie Ryan Miller (26 saves) for a 1-0 lead just 3:59 into the game.
The Ducks, however, seized momentum and never really let go when they tied the game late in the first period.
Anaheim captain Ryan Getzlaf held on to the puck and seemingly mesmerized the Hurricanes, then found defenseman Erik Gudbranson alone in the right circle. Gudbranson went low on Reimer (35 saves), beating him five hole to knot the score at 18:18 of the first.
Neither team converted on any of their combined four power plays, with the best scoring chance coming when Aho’s shorthanded breakaway early in the second period grazed Miller’s pad and hit the far post.
Aho, whose goal in the first period was his 24th of the season, had his most dominant performance in some time, but the rest of the Hurricanes seemed a step behind.
“He was working. He was dynamic again,” Brind’Amour said of Aho.
Carolina had another chance just past midway point, with a Brock McGinn shot trickling through Miller and rolling toward the goal line. But defenseman Josh Manson swept it away.
“I think everyone’s squeezing a little bit,” Staal said of the team, which has scored just five goals total in the last four games. “There’s probably a little too much frustration. We’ve just got to go out and just grind.”
Outside of Reimer and Aho, there wasn’t much for Brind’Amour to be excited about as the team was on the losing end for a third straight game.
“They were the much better team, and we couldn’t get out of our own way, really,” he said.
Reimer found some silver lining in Carolina earning one point.
“At least we got something.”
Notes: Hamilton saw his 255-game playing streak come to an end. … Staal won 19 of 23 faceoffs. … Slavin — who will take Hamilton’s place at All-Star Weekend — and Brett Pesce each played more than 25 minutes, nearly three and four more minutes, respectively, than they’ve played on average this season. … Jake Gardiner played a season-high 21:51. The Hurricanes are now 1-5-1 when he plays more than 19 minutes.